Deal for Michael Pineda should pay off for Yankees
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman must have had his number crunchers working overtime before making the (unofficial) trade for Seattle pitcher Michael Pineda. He must have had them pouring over reams of non-standard statistics to come to the conclusion that Pineda could be a consistently excellent pitcher for years.
That, or he looked at fangraphs.com for a couple minutes on his iPhone before hurriedly calling Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik.
That's all we did here at “The Numbers Game” (to be sure, for more than just a couple minutes) before coming to a similar conclusion.
Putting aside Pineda's traditional stats like ERA (3.74) or win-loss record (a less than stellar 9-10), which are highly dependent on what team a pitcher is on, we looked at four areas, comparing the newest Yankee to his MLB brethren to get a feel for what New Yorkers might see in 2012:
(1) Strikeouts-per-nine-innings: 9.11
Don't dial 911 after seeing that number. It's one of the best in baseball. Only six starting pitchers in 2011 had a better strikeout rate: Tim Lincecum, Cliff Lee, Anibal Sanchez, Clayton Kershaw, Brandon Morrow and Zack Greinke. And of the pitchers in that group, a list that includes four Cy Young award winners, Pineda had the fourth fewest walks-per-nine-innings. Which brings us to...
(2) Walks-per-nine-innings: 2.89
Pineda was 65th among all qualified MLB pitchers in 2011 in BB/9. But that number is deceiving. His bookends were Mat Latos (64th with 2.87) and Sanchez (66th with 2.93). Matt Garza, who was frequently mentioned as a Yankees trade target this off-season, was tied for 61st with a 2.86 BB/9. For reference, the Indians' Josh Tomlin led all starters with a 1.14 BB/9.
(3) Fielding independent Pitching (FIP): 3.42
This stat looks solely at a pitcher's controllable stats, namely: home runs allowed, walks, hit-by-pitch, strikeouts and innings. Pineda's mark ties him for 28th with Tampa Bay's James Shields and just behind Tim Hudson (3.39).
(4) Expected FIP (xFIP): 3.53
Very similar to FIP, the only difference is that xFIP replaces a pitcher's home run rate with the league-average. Here, Pineda is tied for 24th, right between Latos (3.52) and Morrow (3.53).
(5) Wins Above Replacement (WAR): 3.4
This stat summarizes a player's total contribution to a team by calculating how much value he provides a team over a replacement-level player. Pineda is tied for 38th among all starters with Morrow, Mark Buehrle and Jordan Zimmerman. Latos was 41st with a 3.2 WAR. Here's how the Yankees 2011 starting staff did in WAR: CC Sabathia (7.1), Bartolo Colon (2.9), Ivan Nova (2.7), Freddy Garcia (2.2), A.J. Burnett (1.5), Phil Hughes (0.7). New free agent addition Hiroki Kuroda had a 2.4 WAR for the Dodgers last season. Pineda would immediately jump behind Sabathia on this list.
Looking at these stats, a couple clear comparable players to Pineda emerge: Latos and Morrow. Both are viewed as stellar starters.
Latos was recently traded by San Diego to Cincinnati for a huge haul of prospects. Morrow was traded by Seattle to Toronto before the 2010 season and has struck out more than 10 batters per-nine-innings each of the last three years.
So either way Cashman figured it out, he figures to have come out a winner in this deal.